New & Noteworthy

Archive for March, 2009

31 Mar 2009

NSF Survey Highlights Challenges Faced by Scientific Collections

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released the results of a survey of the status of 611 scientific collections.  The study was based on 147 institutions that have received funding from NSF since 1985.  The survey, which was conducted in conjunction with the efforts of the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections, highlights the challenges facing biological, mineral, cell/tissue, and social science collections.  One of the most pressing issues is a lack of quality staff, especially to process specimens.  Half of respondents said that they lacked enough staff to meet their operational requirements.  This has contributed to inaccessibility of the collections.  Forty-one percent of biological collections have less than half of their collection physically available to professional researchers.  Additionally, while most collections are at least partially catalogued, online data accessibility is lacking.  Two thirds of collections have less than 75 percent of holdings online.  Images of specimens are even less available online.  Lastly, the majority of biological collections reported inadequate space for the collection.

The results were not all negative.  Since 2000, nearly three-quarters of the collections acquired new specimens.  Collections by researchers, students, and donations accounted for more than half of this growth.  Although understaffing continues to be a problem, the majority of institutions reported stable staff size.

To read the report, go to

31 Mar 2009

NSF Announces Biological Collections Improvements Grant

On 27 March, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a new grant opportunity for institutions that maintain biological collections.  The Improvements to Biological Research Collections Program provides funds for improvements to network, secure, and organize established natural history collections in order to improve accessibility of the collection to the biological research community.  Applicants are encouraged to collaborate with other collections on regional and continental scales.  Grant proposals are due by 24 July 2009.  For more information, go to and search for grant opportunity 09-548.

25 Mar 2009

NSF Solicits Grant Applications for Natural Collections Research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced two grants opportunities for research on biological natural collections.

The Biological Research Collections Program has $6 million available to fund 25 grants to support biological collection enhancement, computerization of specimen-related data, research to develop better methods for specimen curation and collection management, and activities such as symposia and workshops to investigate support and management of biological collections. Applications are due 24 July 2009. For more information, go to and search for opportunity funding number 06-569.

The Systematic Biology and Biodiversity Inventories program is soliciting grant proposals for research in taxonomy and biodiversity.  The Systematic Biology and Biodiversity Inventories Cluster seeks applications for research that synthesizes existing and new species-level taxonomic information in the context of providing revisionary treatments and predictive classifications for particular groups of organisms.  The Systematic Biology Program supports the discovery and description of species, the organization of taxonomic information into hierarchical predictive classifications, and the analysis of evolutionary and biogeographic relationships among groups of species and across the tree of life.  The Biodiversity Inventories Program supports expeditionary work to discover, describe, and document species diversity throughout the world, with emphasis on well-vouchered natural history collections.  Applications are due 9 July 2009.  For more information, go to and search for opportunity funding number PD-04-7374.

20 Mar 2009

Deadlines Approaching for Several Funding Opportunities from the Economic Stimulus

Federal agencies have begun announcing funding opportunities arising from the $787.2 billion economic stimulus that was signed into law on 17 February.  Several of these grants programs may be of interest to public institutions.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will award $50 million in grants to fund projects that focus on the preservation of jobs in the arts.  Applicants must have received NEA funding in the last four years to be eligible to apply.  For nonprofit arts organizations, applications are due April 2, 2009. For more information, go to

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will award $4.7 billion in grants to establish a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.  The program will develop and expand broadband services to rural and underserved areas and improve access to broadband by public safety agencies.  Live video webcasts about the program will take place March 23 and 24.  To access the webcast, go to  For more information about the program, go to

The Department of Education will award $44 billion in stimulus funding to state governments in the next 30 to 45 days.  The first round of funding will help avert hundreds of thousands of estimated teacher layoffs in schools and school districts while driving crucial education improvements, reforms, and results for students.  For more information, go to

For information on all agencies distributing funds from the economic stimulus, go to

19 Mar 2009

National Science Foundation Releases Spending Plan for Stimulus Money

The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a statement for the scientific community on 18 March regarding their plan to spend the $3 billion directed to the agency in the economic stimulus. NSF will spend most of the $2 billion they received for research on grant proposals that the agency has already received. These proposals will be reviewed and awarded by 30 September 2009.

NSF will also reconsider proposals that were rejected on or after 1 October 2008. Declined proposals with high quality reviews that were not accepted due to a lack of funding at the time of the original decision will be reconsidered for funding at this time.

In addition, NSF will fund the Math and Science Partnership program ($25 million), the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program ($60 million), the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction Account ($400 million), the Academic Research Infrastructure program ($200 million), and the Science Masters program ($15 million). Solicitations for these latter three programs will be posted this spring. NSF does not anticipate seeking any other proposals that are solely in response to the economic stimulus.

The agency plans to make timely award of the funds while maintaining the established peer review process. Proposals that fund new principal investigators or high-risk, high-return research will be top priorities.

To read the full guidelines from NSF, go to For more information on NSF and the economic stimulus, go to

04 Mar 2009

Deadline for Paper Submissions for Biodiversity Informatics Workshop Approaching

The deadline for paper submissions is approaching for the 1st International Workshop on Database Challenges in Biodiversity Informatics, which will be held in Linz, Austria on 2 September 2009. The event is in conjunction with the 20th International Conference on Database and Expert Systems Applications ( The workshop will focus on challenges to databases and data management in the area of biodiversity.

Papers are being accepted on all aspects of modeling and managing biodiversity data. Possible topics include:

Interoperation of biodiversity systems
Biodiversity data quality
Supporting the taxonomic process
Modeling biodiversity concepts
Unique identifiers for data
Data provenance
Biodiversity ontologies
Managing sensitive data
Modeling multiple, conflicting expert opinions & supporting information retrieval using such models

Original papers of up to 5 pages are invited. The deadline for submissions is Sunday, 15 March 2009. Submissions must be in IEEE format ( and submitted as a PDF at

Each paper submission received will be subject to peer review by three members of the program committee. Notification of acceptance will by made by 20 April 2009. Accepted papers must be presented at the workshop and will be published in an IEEE proceedings volume of the DEXA 2009 workshops.

For more information visit or contact Andrew C. Jones (, chair of the Program Committee, with any inquiries about the workshop.